Junie Tan turns down offer to be K-pop star

By KWOK KAR PENG

MORE than 3,000 hopefuls had fought for it.

But when up-and-coming starlet Julie Tan got it, she turned it down.

We're talking about the chance to be part of a new girl band to be groomed and marketed in Korea.

When local company Alpha Entertainment and Korea's JYP Entertainment - which manages popular K-pop bands like Wonder Girls, 2AM and 2PM - organised a much-hyped talent hunt in Singapore last December, Tan went for a closed-door audition to find out where she stood as a performer.

The 18-year-old actress told The New Paper: "There were a few other local male and female artistes who went for the closed-door auditions.

"Because we are public personalities, we didn't go for the public audition as it would be awkward for us.

"We were told by Alpha Entertainment not to reveal who the other artistes were."

But why did she reject the contract of a lifetime that could have propelled her to regional fame?

Call her crazy, but the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts theatre student does not regret what she did.

Tan explained to The New Paper: "Maybe some people think it makes more sense to accept the contract and become famous first.

"But I'd rather stay true to myself.

"My passion is in acting, not K-pop, and I just don't see myself singing in a girl band."

Tan was first discovered when she came in second in modelling competition The New Paper New Face 2009.

The fresh-faced beauty followed the footsteps of previous New Face finalists and entered showbiz. (See report on page 24.)

That same year, she landed a leading role in the Channel U telemovie The Promise and supporting roles in Channel 8 and Channel U TV dramas The Illusionist, No Limits and A Tale Of 2 Cities.

Tan can now be seen on local entertainment website xinmsn's idol web drama Let's Play Love.

She spent more than an hour at the December audition, which was held at the service apartment the JYP representatives were staying at.

Her mother had accompanied her.

Tan had her photos taken at different angles, sang Beyonce's song Listen and danced freestyle hip-hop.

She added that the two companies also negotiated which artiste they each wanted to sign.

Alpha Entertainment subsequently contacted her and invited her to fly to its office in Korea for another audition.

She went in March with a friend and sang Leaving On A Jet Plane for her audition.

The judging panel consisted of two Korean representatives from Alpha Entertainment who used to work for another mega-company SM Entertainment, which manages popular K-pop boy bands SHINee and Super Junior.

Said Tan: "They were very keen to sign me and the general plan was to put me in a girl band.

"They also wanted me to fly to Seoul this July to study in an acting school while they groom me."

It was all very tempting and her decision to forego the offer wasn't one she reached easily.

"I locked myself in my room for three hours, drew up a map of my career plan and had a debate with myself," she said.

"I don't deny that I thought about being a Korean star. It's human nature to be tempted by fame, and I was very tempted.

"But it didn't feel right. Maybe it's the sixth sense that all girls have."

Last month, The New Paper reported that Singapore girls Natasha Low, 18, and Elaine Yuki Wong, 22, were offered a full contract from Alpha Entertainment to be part of a five-member girl group.

Alpha Entertainment's CEO Alan Chan, 48, confirmed that Tan was supposed to join the same band.

He added that Natasha and Wong have not signed the contract and are discussing the contract details with him.

The band is believed to feature three Korean girls.

Scandals

Tan admitted that the recent scandals involving Korean stars also affected her decision.

Actress Jang Ja Yeon killed herself at her home in 2009.

Her suicide note said she was forced by her agent to provide sexual favours to several prominent people.

Last year, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea surveyed 111 actresses and 240 aspiring actresses, and found that 60 per cent of them had been pressured to do the same thing to further their careers.

There have also been reports of Korean talent management companies mistreating their stable of pop stars.

Tan said: "If I were faced with an indecent proposal, I don't think I would be able to handle it. It would be a mental torture."

She added that she is very clear about what she wants in her life and has never regretted the choices she's made.

She revealed she is currently negotiating the details of a contract with a local management company, and already has one project lined up.

The New Paper understands that MediaCorp is keen to work with Tan but is unable to sign her on full time for unstated reasons.

However, we were told by a source that Tan is being considered for a lead role in an upcoming blockbuster drama.

She will take one semester off school from now till November to film the project.

"I'm looking forward to this new stage of my life because it'll be different and exciting," Tan said.

"I'm not worried about taking time off school because my teachers are supportive. They feel the project is a good opportunity to increase my knowledge. They may even consider the project as one of my assignments."

This article was first published in The New Paper.